One of my husband’s former Young Men and a dear family friend, Elder Kenton Hartle, returns home in less than a week after serving for two years in the Alpine German speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reading his last email home and observing how much this amazing young man has grown reminded me of a special experience I had reading my husband’s mission journals almost 12 years ago, and the importance of preparing our four sons for serving missions of their own someday.
For our one-year anniversary, I decided I wanted to put together a picture album of my husband’s LDS mission to Puerto Rico. In order to get the dates right, and to get a feel for what he went through, I decided to read my husband’s missionary journals. Bless his committed heart, that boy wrote every single day. 730 journal entries. And yes, I read every single page. Little did I know, those neat piles of pictures with rubber bands around them that I quickly took off and scattered all over the floor, were actually pre-sorted. My husband still teases me about the time I could have saved if I had just asked him beforehand instead of trying to make the album a surprise, but then I would have missed out on the opportunity to observe the mighty change that occurred in my sweetheart as he gave his life fully over to the Lord.
I didn’t know my husband before his mission. But as I read, I watched through his thoughts and daily recaps, a somewhat naïve and often overwhelmed 19-year-old boy slowly and steadily turn into a strong, determined, spiritually mature 21-year-old man. I felt his growth through his written testimony. I observed his countenance change as I sorted through hundreds of pictures documenting his time in the Caribbean and the love that clearly and brightly shone forth from his face for the people he taught there. I felt like I was able to see him through my Savior’s eyes, and it was one of the most tender experiences for me as a new wife as I pondered over paper in his old childhood room where these precious memories were stored.
I have also observed from watching my little brother, cousins, niece and nephew prepare for and serve a mission, how life changing it can be when one is truly committed to the work, and how it can transform a wary and worried soul into a warrior for Christ. That is what I want for each of my boys.
I understand my children have their agency and that it is ultimately up to them when and if they decide to serve full-time missions. In the event that one or more choose to stay, or come home early for any reason, I pray that I will be able to feel and emulate the perfect love of our Savior by understanding and withholding any shame or disappointment associated with that difficult decision. I believe that an all-knowing Heavenly Father takes into account every facet of a person’s heart as they prayerfully and carefully consider accepting a call.
I would love to share a piece of Elder Hartle’s last letter home, in hopes that it can inspire and motivate future missionaries, including my own four boys:4 comments on this story
“I know it's all true. Not from what I've read or heard, but from what I have seen and felt. I have seen the blessings of the gospel impact my family and people that I have met out here. I not only believe in Jesus Christ, but I also believe Christ. These weren't the best two years OF my life they were the best two years FOR my life to prepare me for even greater adventures and opportunities ahead. I am forever grateful for that.”
Welcome home, Elder Hartle. Thank you for being an incredible example to us, and to our four future missionaries.
(Speaking of opportunities…Brad’s got at least three marriage-eligible nieces that we’re anxious to set you up with. When you’re ready for those “greater adventures”…give us a call.)